Blind lifter Malek Chamoun dreams of Commonwealth gold
MALEK Chamoun's dream of one day playing rugby league for the Canterbury Bulldogs was taken from him as a young teenager.
His parents didn't have the heart to tell their young seven-year-old son, who loved rugby league, that he was suffering from a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa that would eventually leave him blind.
It wasn't until several years later, when some high school mates started talking about getting their licences, that they broke the news to him about his worsening eye condition.
"I trained with kids at school and played in the park, but I never played a game because I kept dropping the ball,'' Chamoun told APN, able to see the funny side of his condition.
Malek's father George, who represented Australia in weightlifting, thought his son might enjoy the sport and they've been "Team Chamoun" ever since.
While now completely blind, the 25-year-old Sydney weightlifter of Lebanese descent says he can picture gold in the 85kg division at next month's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Chamoun refuses to see himself as disadvantaged because he is blind, although his disability presents some hurdles during competition.
Competitors have one minute to get from the warm-up area onto the competition platform and lift.
His father helps him navigate through the busy warm-up room to the stage, but from then on Malek is on his own if something goes wrong.
He has special notches on his bar to help him position his hands, but needs a week of practice at the competition venue to perfect his walk from the warm-up room onto the lifting platform.
"There's always people in the way, weights in the way and then you have to get up the stairs, so I have to move quite quickly," he said.
"When I get to the bar, I have to find my grip. There are notches on the bar so at times I have to adjust a bit."
Chamoun trains on a special competition-size wooden floor with a famous logo on it in his father George's garage.
His father paid $5000 for the 2000 Sydney Olympics weightlifting platform which he laid on the garage floor a few years later for his son to train on.
"It feels like such an honour training on it because you know all these great athletes would have lifted gold medal on it in Sydney so you want to do well," he said.